Background: We are at a historical juncture that is punctuated by the rise of white nationalism, an exacerbation of racial divisions and tensions, an uptick in hate crimes, and bullying increasingly targeting immigrant youth, all of which, in the current political and cultural climate, have often been legitimized through a recourse to “alternative facts.” However, the current historical moment in the United States is also marked by a postmodern ethos, which is often taken up by the public in a fragmentary manner, highlighted by a general sense of incredulity regarding any form of knowledge. At the same time, the fuller, ethical context of postmodernism complicates how educators may pedagogically address and respond to the tensions and conflict that filter over into the university classroom from the social strife and injustices evident in the society at large. The ethical context of postmodernism warns against changing hearts and minds with a proliferation of the “right” facts assumed to be devoid of attachments of value. It also warns us to be vigilant against the foreclosures, reductions, and exclusions that occur when one draws on metanarratives and universals to mobilize against injustice.
Purpose: We explore what it means pedagogically, for teacher educators in predominantly white institutions, to be situated at a historical juncture that calls out for some form of social advocacy on their part to combat the rise in the politicization of truth and xenophobic and racist sentiment, but are simultaneously compelled to keep in mind the ethical lessons of postmodernism.
Research Design: We utilize critical phenomenological analysis intertwined with a narrative accounting of both authors’ classroom experiences as they attempt to engage college students at a predominantly white university with issues of racism, white privilege, and marginalization. We analyze and reflect on the mixed reactions of our students to a presentation on teaching in a diverse world, given by one of the authors to the other author’s class of pre-service teachers.
Conclusions/Recommendations: For teaching that may facilitate white students’ ability to become reflective of their positionality as structured through whiteness and its attendant privileges, it is important to envision pedagogical work taking place within environments that can address not only students’ cognitive capacities but also the white body schema, which operates at a pre-reflective level. Educators may refrain from reducing white students to reified categories of whiteness by cultivating a disposition of wonder that may allow them to understand whiteness through the lens of emergent realities rather than substantive, ontological forces.